Interview: Propaganda on his summer, meeting favorite artists, and mainstream attention
A typical strategy for all musicians to expand their audience is to tour. This summer, Humble Beast artist Propaganda has taken full advantage of that strategy. Not only did he headline his own tour based off the Crimson Cord album released in April, but he has played quite a few events with popular Hip Hop acts ranging from Wu-Tang Clan’s Raekwon to Southern Rap legend Bun B. He was a part of the Murs 316 Stage, the first-ever Hip Hop stage at the Sunset Strip Music Festival in Propaganda’s hometown of Los Angeles. This platform, along with the Back to Basics 3 show, has allowed him to spread his music and message further than ever before. He says that no matter what the stage is, Propaganda promises the same high-energy performance.
“I try not to assume that the crowd is 100% one or the other, either all Christian or all non-Christian,” he says. “So I try to have moments in the show that kind of challenge and encourage believers and then challenge non believers also. But I really, really love performing so what will stay consistent for me is – I’m trying to melt your face.”
Rapzilla caught up with Propaganda to discuss his summer, meeting some of his favorite artists in Hip Hop, Lecrae’s chart-topping album, and Humble Beast getting mainstream media attention.
Rapzilla: What was your experience performing at the Sunset Strip Music Festival?
Prop: It was incredible for a couple reasons. One is, being an LA native and seeing events at Sunset Strip my whole life, it was an indescribable feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. Secondly, knowing this was the first Hip Hop stage they ever had and Murs hand-picked the artists, incredibly honored. Also was blown away by the size of the crowd I got to perform in front of given my time slot. A lot of support from the crowd of which the majority was not familiar with my music. Reminded me of my years at foundation and Project Blowed where you had to prove you could spit.
Rapzilla: How did you get connected with Murs?
Prop: I’m actually not sure. (laughs) We have hundreds of mutual friends so it could be any one those connects. I know he grew up wit Raphi, aka Shames Worthy, of the Tunnel Rats. And was very familiar with the TRz work and my connection with them. That was prolly his first connection. Then probably through my relation with Lecrae and Dee-1 who are also good friends with Murs.
Rapzilla: You also performed at the Back to Basics with some big-name Hip Hop acts like Immortal Technique and Raekwon from Wu-Tang Clan. What was that experience like?
Prop: Spent most of Back to Basics tryin to not act brand new. Ha! Saw a lot of my heroes. I guess, similar to Sunset Strip Music Festival, felt a lot like vindication, as that I’ve been around the scene for a while and to finally get a slot was so humbling. Everyone that knows me personally knows Pharoahe Monch, Souls of Mischief and Zion I are my absolute favorite Hip Hop acts. Unfortunately I was on the same time as Souls. But I did get some good time to build with Tajai, Opio and Zion I.
Rapzilla: How have these opportunities allowed you to network in the industry?
Prop: It’s put me in the room with a lot of people of influence and the fact that I have a performance slot is a type of legitimacy. But at the end of the day, you still gotta work. Be friendly, have no hidden agendas. If we building on some real life developing friendship then let it be just that. But, if you trying to work together, then be up front about it.
Rapzilla: How has this experience been as a Christian bringing light into the mainstream industry?
Prop: I’ve been finding that it’s really no different than any other workplace. You gotta be truthful, approachable and not weird. (laughs)
Rapzilla: You will be performing at A3C in Atlanta. What do you expect from that stage?
Prop: Mostly just to get on some more radars. Maybe make some friends with people that I hadn’t had a chance to connect with. Open some minds to our world.
Rapzilla: A lot of young or up-and-coming artists go there hoping to “make it.” And then there are some big name artists like 9th Wonder or even 2 Chainz that don’t really have to prove anything. Where do you see yourself on that continuum of artists?
Prop: First off, lemme say this, I make it a habit to surround myself with people doing bigger things than I am so that I don’t get too comfortable. Now having said that, it’s actually a struggle for me to correctly identify where I am in that continuum. Whether it’s the issue of pride or insecurity or whatever the case may be, that’s always a difficult question to answer. I’m definitely not starving. I am doing music professionally. But I’ve never not felt the hunger.
Rapzilla: You also had the Crimson Cord tour earlier this summer. For you, what is the difference between playing a crowd that knows who you are and is probably Christian versus playing mainstream shows where the crowd probably isn’t familiar with your music and faith? Do you approach your performance differently for each?
Prop: Well number one I try not to assume that the crowd is 100% one or the other, either all Christian are all non-Christian. So I try to have moments in the show that kind of challenge and encourage believers and then challenge nonbelievers also. But I really, really love performing so what will stay consistent for me is I’m trying to melt your face.
Rapzilla: What do you think of your friend Lecrae having the No. 1 album in the country with Anomaly?
Prop: Man! It feels like Hunger Games in this mug and he’s out there reppin the district for us! I smile every time I think about it.
Rapzilla: From a business standpoint, what does that mean for an independent label like Reach Records to have that album?
Prop: Man vindication? Proof that you don’t have to conform to win and people want good honest music.
Rapzilla: Is Humble Beast Records taking any notes, or making any similar goals? Or is your mission different than Reach’s in that aspect?
Prop: I would say Def Jam is to Stones Throw as Reach is to Humble Beast. Pharrell is to J Dilla as Lecrae is to Propaganda. We def have the same external mission and for sure are taking business notes. But we exist to impact very different lanes. Kinda like Kanye and Common. Super good friends, united. But unique.
Rapzilla: What did it mean to have Humble Beast featured on HipHopDX.com’s list of top independent labels?
Prop: I was so excited. It felt like probably the best media coverage we had gotten so far because it’s very difficult to articulate the specific, the nuances that makes Humble Beast what it is. The free model and the digital sales and how they work together and the Christian worldview and we’re not Reach Records. They got it!
Rapzilla: What are your plans for the rest of 2014?
Prop: Really just to set up for 2015. We got Catalyst, we got A3C and a few other conferences but mostly shoot videos and writing. Lookout for “Dear Bored of Education” campaign! It’ll be great.
Rapzilla: How do you define success? Would you say you have reached success or are at least on the path towards that success?
Prop: I guess I think of it in terms more like short-term and long-term goals. I think I’ll always be striving to be a better husband a better father a better believer a better friend and a better artist and businessman so it’s difficult to mark a moment of success. But we definitely reached our goals for 2014: headline my own tour and launch the Crimson Cord album.
Follow Propaganda on Twitter at @prophiphop.
Victoria Hernandez will graduate in 2015 from University of Miami and is double majoring in Sport Administration and Journalism. Victoria has written for HipHopDx.com, CaneInsider.com, and more. Follow Victoria on Twitter.